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13 Random Things I Know About Mothers

1.  You never know.  I mean you really never know.  You may think you know.  You may pride yourself in knowing.  You may make it your life’s work to know. But the truth is, you never know.  Not everything.. not even some of the things you thought you knew. Children keep a cache of well-hidden secrets. You never know everything.  Just accept it.

2.  Since mothers are often in charge of food gathering, I offer this nugget: You can never have too much food available, especially for teenagers. Have food of all kinds, and lots of it. This will ensure crowds at your house, but the odds are you will never be sorry for it.

3.  It’s been said that mothers wear their hearts on the outside of their bodies.  For most of us this is true.  There is the occasional mother that is not a nurturer by nature. But usually, we are. Big time. Everything our child does is fodder for our emotional well-being, or not-so-well-being. They become extensions of us.  And while this isn’t healthy, it’s common practice. Go ahead, love ’em to death, but at some point, in the name of everything maternal, back away and keep your feelings to yourself.  Running out onto the baseball field after Junior throws the winning pitch is not a good idea, no matter how close you are.

4.  Mothers often take credit for the good things their children do.  It’s because we have so much invested in them.  Their success is ours, too.. right?  Not so fast, Ma Walton. If we take credit for their accomplishments, we have to absorb the bad stuff, too.  At some point, they make their own decisions..accompanied by consequences.. and if I’m lucky, I’m along for the ride, that’s all.

5.  We like to take take ourselves too seriously.  But what about our responsibilities–shouldn’t we take them seriously?  Yes.  Ourselves?  No.  My thinking here is that no one should do this.  But mothers have a tendency to hold onto pride and entitlement. It’s unattractive and repels children.. not to mention men.

6.  Whenever I produce a healthy belch.. usually after a couple of good swigs of Dr. Pepper.. it makes my teenage son smile.  This is worth any public humiliation I may endure.

7.  I’ve learned I need to back off.  I lean toward pushing.. pushing a child toward betterment, responsible behavior, for information. A nudge is OK. Doing my homework about the child is crucial. But pushing just alienates him.. and makes me come off cranky and yes, bitchy..  which, of course, I am.  Give the kid some room.

8.  Lock the bedroom and bathroom doors.  I’ve learned the hard way that seeing one’s mother in her underwear only confuses already weird feelings in a teenager.  Even as a daughter, it played with my head a little when I saw my mother in her undies.  11-18-year-olds especially don’t like to think of their mothers as people with lives and feelings, and well, underpants.  Just lock the door.

9.  You know when a child says, “You don’t understand”?  We really don’t.  We can’t.  We may understand what it was like for us, and while that has value, it’s not definitive. Mothers like to think it is.  Our children are growing up in a society that even 20 years ago was unimaginable.  They are faced with burdens we do not know.  Maybe our best response when they say this to us.. and if they haven’t yet, they will..  is “You’re right. I don’t.”

10.  Mothers should touch their children lovingly.. even teenagers.  Especially teenagers.  It’s easy to snuggle and snog with babies and toddlers.  But the older ones need it, too.  They may not talk about it or request it.. although I know that some do. Most, however, will turn shades of scarlet if this is done in public.. or in front of friends (the kiss of death).  So hug them, put an arm around them, pat them on a cheek or tousle shaggy hair.  Just do it.. and do it a time or two every day.. because this means something.  To them it means they are still adorable to you, even though they are older and awkward.  It teaches affection.  And to a mother, it can be oh, so satisfying.

11.  We will fall on a sword for our children. But too many of us do it even if it’s wrong. One mother in the Midwest sold her son’s car because she told him one of the rules was no drinking, and she found a beer bottle under the seat.  She did not witness the act of drinking, but despite claims the bottle in question didn’t belong to her son, she put an ad in the paper to sell the car, touting herself as “the meanest mom on the planet.”  She received calls from all over the country.. parents, emergency workers, hospitals.. all thanking her for the courage to take a stand.  It’s hard to do this.. but mothering is not a popularity contest–although some of us try to make it into one.

12.  Don’t take it personally.  Mothers do this.  We pout or induce guilt, we turn into martyrs or screaming machines.  They are children.  They’re younger than we are. They are still learning.. even if they are 17-years-old.  The benefit of our years and experience comes in handy here.  That, and a look at the big picture.  If we are functional at all, and show we care even a little.. they love us.  Don’t worry.

13.  Expect goodness.  Children will do “bad” things sometimes.  They will, of course, balk at requests, chores, authority, and clean underwear.  But there is a lot of good there.  Teenagers can be disrespectful and downright mean.  We teach them appropriate behavior and start over again.  They are individuating.. they have to do these things.  Look for all that’s good..  grades, positive behavior, reliability, kindness.. and let the compliments flow free.  Expect it all.. but especially the good.  It’s there for the taking.

Trifecta

Not long ago, on a Sunday night when life did not feel warm and fuzzy, I drove to a nearby bay. I parked my car so I had a view of the sunset, dined on a baked potato I brought along (one of the ultimate comfort foods), wrote down feelings that were spilling over, and shot this pic as the sun dropped.

Silence, a baked potato and beautiful water..  each on their own is a pretty good deal.  Together they were spectacular.

Abundance vs. Scarcity

I think this particular meditation, though titled something different, is really about practicing generosity.

My friend, The Writer Mama has taken generosity and shaped it into an exquisite art form. Her writing and her life, it seems.. is all about how much she can give away.

It has been my habit, especially in late years, to pull back: Will there be enough? What if I do it wrong? What if people don’t like me? What if I don’t get enough attention? (Ouch.. that one hurts, but it’s true)

This pinched and limited way of being in the world never works long for me–at least not very well. I start feeling stifled, untrue to myself and others and exhausted. Every time I plunge into scarcity mode I view my retreat as protection from hurt or pain. The irony is, a scarcity mentality only brings more hurt and pain, not to mention isolation.

One might think I would learn the lesson I need to one of these times and stop the spiral. I think it’s getting better.

From Christina and others like her, I do continue to learn that putting the focus so wholly on someone else doesn’t diminish me as a woman, a writer, a mom or a human being. In fact, in some cosmic way, it makes me better–much more useful to others and happier than I would be hogging the spotlight for myself. And it’s refining somehow.. even relaxing.. to not have to be the center of the universe all the time.

Oddly enough.. when I’m generous with time, talent, money and ideas–the abundance I gave away–and more–comes back to me. When I employ a death grip hanging onto whatever I’m afraid of losing, I’ll lose it for sure.

I think this is called something–karma, the law of retribution or something else I can’t remember. Whatever it is.. it’s not magic.. it’s real.

I believe it’s in our natures to give, emote, share and nurture. And without trying to sound ‘woo-woo,’ I know this because of experiencing light and wholeness whenever I engage others in this way.

It can be exhausting to give–just like pulling back is. But if it’s done with the right intention, it’s a different kind of tired. It’s the kind that makes you want to get up in the morning and do it all over again the next day, rather than stay in bed with the covers over your head–something I’m sorry to say I’ve practiced a lot.

This is what I know: If we lovingly give away what we have, even if it’s everything we can muster– somehow–and probably in a way we won’t expect–we’ll get it all back in spades.

The Top Ten Reasons I Will Always Love David Letterman

10. He’s a sexy doofus.

9. He rarely dumbs it down for his audience.

8. He stocks his mom’s fridge with Colt 45.

7. He loves the doggies.

6. He always wears grey socks.

5. He and Paul Schaffer have been close, personal friends for over 75 years.

4. He’s nuts about his little boy.

3. He’s nuts.

2. He took a fruit basket to GE.

1. The gap in his teeth.